Ben Cameron will be the opening keynote speaker this year’s Spektrix Conference, and we can’t wait. Ben joins us from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, where he is currently Program Director for the Arts in New York City and looks after a $15 million grants program focusing on organizations and artists in the theater, contemporary dance, jazz and other forms. At the end of this year, he’ll be leaving Doris Duke to become President of both the Jerome Foundation and Camargo Foundation.
We had a quick chat to Ben to get a taste of what’s to come on the 4th of November...
You've had an illustrious career working in the arts, what would you say has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
I feel enormous pride every time an artist or an organization we have supported flourishes, does well and receives the attention it deserves. I'm answering your question today on the heels of a matinee of Sweat, a new play by Lynn Nottage premiering at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (a play about the impact of globalism on factory workers) and seen an audience leap to its feet and cheer a complex, painful, powerful play – an audience that now is scattered across the plaza having astounding conversations. I am so, so proud for Lynn and for the great Bill Rauch, the artistic director here, and the entire company – and grateful that my career has let me encounter artists and thinkers of this caliber.
What do you feel are the biggest opportunities for the arts in the future?
I think we're in a moment of ever-expanding opportunities. The narrative format is exploding, the audience contract broadening, the presence of the arts in daily life expanding with every passing day.
What do you think is the biggest obstacle for the arts at the moment?
I worry that our allegiance to the experiences that have been so transformative for those of us who have given our lives to the arts makes it difficult for us to see beyond the formats of what has been to see the possibilities of what might be. At many conferences, I listen to attendees worry about the inability of the public to appreciate the arts. What if the real question isn't such inability – what if the real question is that the public loves the arts, is obsessed with the arts, is more arts-connected than at any point in human history, but they simply don't love OUR arts and the way we deliver them?
Going back in time, what advice would you give yourself starting out in the sector?
I would try to worry less about what to do and how to do it, and become clearer earlier about why doing this work in the first place is important.
Could you give us a preview of what you'll be talking about in your keynote at the Spektrix Conference?
Virtually everything I've said in the earlier answers (the first answer aside) will inform the keynote at the Spektrix Conference. That said, I hope to explore a bit more concretely about how we might move forward – collectively and individually – into these perplexing, confounding, depressing, thrilling, transformative times in which we will find ourselves. Then again, with a ticket to see Imelda Staunton in Gypsy the preceding evening, I may just end up singing the Jules Styne score. Only time will tell. Looking forward to it all!
Want to make sure you catch Ben’s keynote? If you haven’t already booked a place at our conference, make sure to email us on firstname.lastname@example.org now, before spaces are full! Check out our blog here for all the details.
Date: 4th November 2015
Venue: Lyric Hammersmith, London (see directions here).
Who’s coming? Download our latest delegate list here.
If you want a sneak preview of Ben Cameron, check out his TED talk here.